Here’s a late 80s oddity that I was turned onto recently by Steve Cook – he of Secret Oranges fame. A 1988 Acid House 12″ made by the late, great Brett Ewins among others that comes with an 8pg B&W ‘lyric sheet’ featuring the art of Brendan McCarthy, Steve Dillon, Jamie Hewlett, Shaky Kane, Philip Bond, Jamie Hewlett and more.
The tracks themselves are primitive attempts to make Acid House (without the aid of the all-important Roland 303 by the sound of it) but have a period charm to them. Brett intones creepily over the top of the A side sounding like a riled up Timothy Leary on speed. The B side houses two instrumental cuts with ‘The Church of Acid’ coming on like Bam Bam with a sledgehammer and there IS a snatch of 303 but it sounds sampled and slightly out of time.
‘Dr. Microdot’ is a shorter version of same with the addition of an unidentified voice asking you to relax (we’ve all been there) and both tracks suffer from a lack of a decent arrangement, stumbling along with samples and effects being randomly thrown in and out of the mix. I’m being unkind but it’s fair to say they haven’t aged well although the fact that they were made in the middle of the second summer of love gives them a certain kudos. I’m wondering if the Ken Thomas credited with producing this fascinating artifact is the same one who has worked with everyone from Queen to the Cocteau‘s?
The artwork is the gold here and the free comic is basically of lot of the early gang of artists responsible for Deadline taking a page each and letting rip with whatever they feel is appropriate. Brendan, Philip and Shaky come up with some crackers but I’m not sure where Jamie’s contribution is exactly unless he collaborated with someone and isn’t credited. Ron Merlin, an early Deadline character, makes an appearance but it’s not clear if he is supposed to be the voice on the A side. There’s very little about it on the web but I love these musical comic crossovers (the Madness off-shoot ‘Mutants of Mega City One’ is another) even if the sounds often play second fiddle to the artwork.
I try to be positive but sometimes a negative is needed. From the collection of Steve Cook who kindly passed it on to me earlier today, thanks mate More to come…
I’ve spent most of the evening looking at the work of Kája Saudek – a Czech artist and designer who worked in comics and created film posters – after being tipped off about him by Markey Funk. Markey had just visited ‘Batalion’, a bar and museum in Prague dedicated to the man and thought I would like the work. He was right, check out all that amazing detail and hand drawn typography – what a find.
I’d seen the Barbarella poster before but never checked on the name, the rest was new to me, a mixture of Rockin’ Jellybean, Robert Williams with shades of Moebius in places. Sadly, upon checking the wikipedia entry it seems that Saudek died the same day that I discovered him after spending nine years in a coma at a hospital in Prague. Art like this can never die though, he left a huge body of work for us all to enjoy.
I found this Carl Oglesby album with a cover illustrated by Dave Sheridan, the comic artist who worked on titles like Dealer McDope, The Leather Nun and some of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. Now sadly deceased, Dave’s work is always hyper detailed and tripped out, I featured another of his covers some years back, an Impulse Jazz compilation – I wonder if he ever did any more record sleeves?
I met Christian Ward last Friday when he signed copies of the new trade paperback of his and Matt Fraction‘s ‘ODY-C’, at Gosh! Comics, an epic psychedelic space take on The Odyssey with the roles reversed. If you like your female leads strong and ruthless, your Gods devious and wrathful and your art cosmic then this is the book for you, a gritty, multi-layered take on a classic with out of this world page layouts and colour.
(Photo © Gosh! Comics 2015)
He was kind enough to do me a quick Cyclops sketch and Gosh! are selling the lovely Spaceman print above for a very reasonable £20 which looks beautiful framed in my studio.
This bit of Star Wars fan fiction is doing the rounds on the web right now and with good cause as it’s visualised and told (wordlessly I might add) beautifully. From a short scene in Return of the Jedi, Daniel Warren Johnson has created an 11 page comic expanding outwards to before and after the event, imagining what led to and ultimately resulted from it.
The scene is the one where as A-Wing pilot, realising he’s hit and little can save him, turns kamikaze and crashes headlong into Darth Vader‘s Super Star Destroyer Executor causing a chain reaction that causes it to crash into the Death Star surface. Warren Johnson says “For some reason, this A wing pilot MOVED me. Everything about this part of Return of the Jedi made me want to DRAW and CREATE. This is a fan fiction comic I made in April, just because I love this scene and I love comics.”
It’s superbly realised and heartbreaking despite the huge rebel victory that resulted as he’s added a human element to the mix. Also check out his sci-fi web comic, Space Mullet, while you’re there.
Another bit of Star Wars fan fiction dealing with alternate viewpoints of the saga’s characters is the Tie Fighter animated short I featured a while back. I just noticed that there’s also a poster and extensive background character notes for the seven minute plus Manga-style film by Paul Johnson what has the Empire as the heroes (they always did have the best designs).
I’m reliably informed – by curator Sean Phillips – that the sleeve of my last album,‘The Search Engine’, features in this forthcoming exhibition of 60 album sleeves drawn by 60 comic artists. Phono+Graphic opens at the Kendal Museum in, errr… Kendal this October. Check out Sean’s blog for more info nearer the time.
For those of you who like their sci-fi cosmic with a huge dose of psychedelic (and stir in a portion of Greek mythology in this case) then there is no comic more suited than ODY-C by Matt Fraction & Christian Ward. Below are four of six prints that Christian will be debuting at Heroes con next month. For those not in the US (me), Christian will be signing at Gosh Comics on Friday 12th June when the trade collection of the first five issues of ODY-C is released.
Looking forward to this: writer, artist and all round comics enfant terrible, Brandon Graham is set to return with several projects this year, one being ‘8house’ in June – a series of stories by him with different artists in the style of the Heavy Metal anthology. There’s also something else called ‘Island’ coming in July – 112 oversized pages with contained, one-off stories – and the long-delayed ‘Prophet: Earth War’ end to the saga at some point. More info and a lot more besides on his site.
Finally, FINALLY!, I’ve secured a copy of Kevin O’Neill‘s legendary ‘Mek Memoirs’ fanzine/mini comic from 1976. It’s only taken me 14 years since first signing up to eBay and creating a search for it, having been outbid on the only two other copies to have come up in that time. 12 pages of self-published, prime pre-2000AD O’Neill robot business, no one can draw bots like Kev.
His hyper-detailed style is still forming into the unique presence he would add to the comic a year later here, first as art director and occasional spot illustrator and then as fully-fledged art droid. For a thorough overview on Kev’s early career including his stint on Horror Classics, take a look at Lew Stringer’s excellent blog piece here.
Just saw Avengers: Age of Ultron which was excellent fun. Then this got posted to my Facebook page – an alphabetical run down of Marvel characters to the instrumental of Blackalicous‘ ‘ Alphabet Aerobics’ by Tribe One. The man has skills.
Several items from my collection of Savage Pencil / SavX aka Edwin Pouncey‘s advertising for the Slam City Skates shop. (Above) A rare Slam City Skates bag from 1990, the reverse had a similar image but advertised the Rough Trade record shops, one of which had a space in the basement below SCS’s Covent Garden branch.
(Below) Several adverts by Savage Pencil for the Slam City Skates shop from 1986, 1984 and 1987. The 1976 – 1986 flyer is a Battle Of The Eyes production by SavX and Chris Long.
Going through the archive recently for something else I chanced upon these lesser seen early Simon Bisley artworks from the late 80’s. After Simon exploded onto the comic scene with his work for 2000ad on ABC Warriors and Slaine it seemed everyone wanted a piece of him and his work inevitably started appearing outside the comic world too.
His love of Heavy Metal music is well known so it was no surprise when I spotted a cover and advert he’d done for the short-lived Kerrang! rival, RAW (Rock Action Worldwide, not the New York underground Raw publication). I’m pretty sure this is one of the first instances of The Biz drawing Batman, the Joker, Spiderman and Marshall Law, even Judge Dredd too.
Possibly from the same magazine a couple of years later is a full page painting of Slayer complete with horned devil and Giger-esque creature. Below that is a flyer for a Rock club night I picked up in the late 80’s in London which I’m 99% certain is a Biz doodle.
Last here are a couple of Bisley cameos from anthology books I’ve collected over the years, sadly I’ve forgotten the actual titles of the books but one was some sort of horror anthology and also featured one-off illustrations by other comic artists of the day.
A 3 page story appeared in the January ’92 issue of Heavy Metal magazine, credited to Greg Gallo and made entirely out of distorted photocopies. I’ve searched for more comic work by Gallo but found nothing, can anyone enlighten me on anything else he’s done please or was this a one-off? The twisted xeroxes remind me of WKinteract‘s work that sometimes utilises a similar method.
‘Ordinary’ was one of my comics of 2014, the story of a world where everyone wakes up with different super powers, all except Michael who’s ordinary. As the world quickly goes to pot he has to find his son in a New York city gone mad and he soon becomes a target for the government – who want him dead – and the scientists who want him alive as they believe that he may hold the key to reversing the effect.
Shot through with Rob Williams‘ dark humour and illustrated in gorgeous colour by D’Israeli, I’m not ashamed to say that the ending bought a lump to my throat. Originally published in the Judge Dredd Megazine it’s now been collected into a trade paperback by Titan Comics and buyers from OK Comics in Leeds can get an exclusive signed bookplate edition by both creators.
Very sad to hear the news today that Brett Ewins has died after a short illness. He was a master of his art and a huge influence in British comics in the 80’s and 90’s. Starting out with Brendan McCarthy and Pete Milligan he bought the sharpness of the ska movement into comics, slowly working his way up from one-off Future Shock stories in 2000AD to full-on national treasure status in the comic’s first golden age.
Judge Dredd, Bad Company, Rogue Trooper, Judge Anderson, Johnny Nemo and more, he made a huge impression on me as a kid. As the 80’s ended he co-founded the music and comics magazine, Deadline with Steve Dillon and they launched Tank Girl into the world among many others. I’m pretty sure I draw skulls the way I do because of Brett’s depiction of them as biochips in the Rogue Trooper stories. I remember copying at least one of his characters in a graffiti piece I did in my teens and also being shit-scared of a particular character he and Brendan McCarthy drew for a story called ‘The Day of the Phoenix’.
The one page ‘Encounter’ from a very early issue of 2000AD freaked me out as an 8 year old, mostly because of the leering face of the creature about to do something unspeakable to the human who had just teleported into its world. Back in 2011 Air Pirate Press published ‘The Art of Brett Ewins’, a collection of a lot of his best work from the start of his career up until that time. It’s an excellent book and came as a timely reminder of Brett’s achievements as he’d disappeared from the scene amid rumours of health issues. The book is even more important now that he is now longer with us and nestled inside was the ‘Phoenix’ page which triggered a deep nostalgia in me. I made some inquiries and got a message to Brett asking if he still had the page and was it for sale? Luckily he did and it was, so one summer afternoon I found myself visiting him in his West London home, looking through various classic Dredd stories and chatting about his career. He still had the table that he and Brendan used to sit at and draw on when they were first starting out and he told me he loved listening to Brian Eno when he drew.
He was very humble about his own work and forthcoming with answers to the many questions I had about it. I bought the page although, unfortunately, most of the lettering had fallen off over time (it was drawn in 1978). Brett said that it was around somewhere and that he’d find it and send it to me although that wasn’t to be. Just a few months later there was a news story that he had been arrested and sectioned after an incident outside that very house late one night and soon after he was imprisoned for stabbing a policeman. He had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and served several months in jail before being released in late 2012. Since then he had been under psychiatric care and even made a few appearances at comic events as many rallied round him to offer support. I feel very lucky to have met him for the hour I was at his house, he certainly won’t be forgotten.
I urge you to buy a copy of ‘The Art of Brett Ewins’ to see how much great work this man gave to the comic world, Titan have also recently released a Johnny Nemo compendium collecting all the old strips and adding new work by artists like Rufus Dayglo, Ashley Wood and more. Air Pirate Press have collections of his Bad Company work and the US series, Skeemer. 2000AD have various Dredd collections available with Brett’s work in them but I don’t know the exact volumes that feature him. Lastly here’s some rarely seen early work that he did for a British poster company in the late 70’s, these are hard to find now but sometimes crop up on eBay.
So, say for instance, you’ve heard of Judge Dredd, maybe you saw the Dredd film on DVD a year or so ago, you’ve read the odd graphic novel or seen high praise for certain stories kicking around the internet? Maybe you’ve read a few from the Top Ten Essential Dredd epics lists that periodically do the rounds on the web but want more? Where do you start with 38 years worth of stories, characters and continuity? Here is where, The Mega Collection: a fortnightly series of hardback story collections of the essential must-read tales spanning 80+ volumes (I read somewhere but can’t find now).
Starting with the classic tale of ‘America’ written by Dredd co-creator John Wagner and painted by Colin MacNeil at the incentive-inducing price of £1.99 it’s a no-brainer of a purchase if you’ve never read it. I can confirm that it’s a bonafide classic all right, centering around the subject of ‘democracy’ in Dredd’s world although it’s an odd choice to start the collection with. Maybe it sets the tone more than anything else and is a hard-hitting jump into how the Judges meter out ‘justice’ in the future?.
After the first issue the price jumps up to £9.99 per issue but there are subscriptions available with all sorts of free gifts and a free issue as well. Another incentive is that the complete collection will display this scene across the spines once finished. If you’re still not convinced then here’s a review of the first issue from the Everything Comes Back To 2000AD blog. This post reads back a bit like an advert unfortunately but it’s a perfect jumping in point and, for the same price of a vinyl 12″, a hardback collection every two weeks is a very good deal indeed.